Published: October 29, 2020
What if a Skydiving Parachute Malfunctions?
The skydiving parachute is all that stands between your 120 mph hurtling freefall to the ground and the gentle solace of a canopy flight amongst the clouds. So, naturally, concerns regarding skydiving parachute malfunctions rank pretty high on the list of first time skydiving jitters. At Skydive Cincinnati, we're big believers in the notion that knowledge dispels fear.
First and foremost, if the skydiving parachute malfunctions during a tandem skydive, your skydiving instructor will know is trained in what to do. They have been thoroughly trained for just this occasion. Typically, procedures are as follows. First, by using a handle on the skydiving container, the malfunctioning main parachute will be detached. Then, the instructor will use the reserve handle to deploy the reserve parachute.
Parachute Malfunction Statistics
Skydiving parachute malfunctions are fairly unlikely. Per every 1,000 skydives, only one skydiving parachute malfunction is said to occur. This means only .01% of skydiving parachutes will experience a malfunction. The chances are very slim you'll ever be faced with a skydiving parachute malfunction on your skydive. Understandably, though, the fear of "what if" lingers just in the back of your mind. Here's where we have some relieving news!
Now that we've cleared the air on the big questions, let's go over some parachute basics.
How Does A Parachute Open?
The parachute used on a tandem skydive opens with a staged deployment sequence. The first step in this sequence is the deployment of a "miniature" parachute, called the drogue. The drogue helps to slow the fall rate of the tandem skydiving pair and plays a pivotal role in the deployment of the main parachute. At the appropriate time, the drogue is released with a ripcord producing enough drag force to subsequently extract the main parachute from the parachute container. As the main parachute inflates, each of the ram-air foils will fill with air from the center out in a slow but efficient manner.
Dual Parachute System
On every tandem skydive you complete, you will have not one but two parachutes! Each skydiving system, we call them containers, holds two parachutes. The two parachutes are aptly named the main parachute (i.e. the one that is deployed on each and every skydive) and the reserve parachute (i.e the backup parachute you'll utilize in the event there is an issue). The differences in the two parachutes are many with regard to both usage and function.
The Main Parachute
The main parachute used for tandem skydiving is a large 9-celled RAM air canopy, meaning it is an airfoil designed with nine segments. The purpose of the main parachute is performance: it is built with a focus on fun. Think of the main parachute like a typical go-kart. You have the agility to zip around, but it never reaches speeds that are concerning.
The Reserve Parachute
The primary design of the reserve parachute revolves entirely around its very important function: to open quickly, on heading, and with stability. Because the reserve parachute is utilized in the event there is an issue with the main parachute, there are little frills when it comes to the reserve parachute. It has a job to fulfill and does it very well.
Furthermore, the reserve parachute can only be handled by extremely qualified hands. In fact, reserve parachutes can only be inspected and packed by a certified parachute rigger who has received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. Reserve parachutes in every parachute container are inspected and repacked every 180 days. Each time the reserve is repacked it is inspected and only upon meeting certain requirements is issued approval as a Technical Standard Order from the aforementioned FAA.
No Need To Fear
All of the instructors at Skydive Cincinnati are thoroughly trained to use a reserve parachute. In fact, it's quite possible that in their extensive time in the sport, your instructor has had to deploy and land a reserve parachute. This means they serve as the living proof that even if the skydiving parachute malfunctions, it can be a-okay!